IRWINDALE - All that studying paid off.

College freshman Jace Meier has been poring over his school books on his way to Southern California from his North Carolina school every other week. He's been studying Irwindale Speedway's half-mile oval all season.

The on-the-track research finally paid off as the 18-year-old from Las Vegas broke through to win the 50-lap main event in front of 4,800 Saturday night.

It was wild, wooly and three-wide for the lead over the final three laps. Meier had to hold off Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills, who had won the past two races, and Kevin Callahan of Bakersfield.

"Knowing Nick Joanides was behind me had my heart really going," a hoarse Meier said. "I knew I was going to win eventually. I thought it would be earlier this year. It feels so good. I feel lighter now."

Meier took the lead on the 19th lap, and Joanides and Callahan moved up to make it three-wide for the final 26 laps.

"It was a heck of a race," Joanides said. "Three-wide for the lead.

"You've got to love it."

Joanides, who had the faster car late in the race, got into second with 13 laps to go, but a yellow flag put him back to third. He had to work by Callahan again and he gave it one last shot with three laps to go.

"I beat him and he's driven everything," Meier said. "I'm really honored. I feel indebted to him that he ran me clean."

"I knew he wanted the first one real bad," Joanides said. "I was not going to rough him up that way. But if he made a mistake, I'd have taken advantage of it."